Certified Educators take yourasthma and allergy questions.
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ALLERGIC LIVING |
SPRING 2011 33
Q. How do you calm a child during an asthma attack? Mydaughter had one and started to panic, which made herbreathing worse.
Calming a frightened asthmatic child requires arehearsed plan and solid knowledge of asthma care. Asthmaattacks vary in severity and cause – talk to your doctor and a res-piratory educator about developing an action plan for both lossof asthma control and single-event asthma attacks.Some soothing actions include acting and speaking calmly with a relaxed voice; evoking your action plan; explaining what’shappening; checking in with your child often; and providingreassurance. I recommend practising your daughter’s asthmaaction plan when her asthma is controlled – you’ll attain somemastery and experience solution-focused problem solving.
Q. How can I spring clean without triggering an asthmaattack? Dust and pollen are both big triggers.
Spring cleaning can be difficult with asthma.Your asthma should be well-controlled at all times, but especial-ly prior to cleaning. Once those sleeves are rolled up, avoidcleansers with chemical fumes or fragrance. Decrease theamount of dust that’s stirred up by damp-wiping surfaces withan unscented product; you may even want to wear a mask. Sincepollen is a trigger, avoid opening windows while cleaning.Finally, it also helps to clean more regularly in order to avoidthe big seasonal cleanup in spring.
Q. My husband has been prescribed a corticosteroidinhaler for asthma. Aren’t these drugs dangerous?
No. Some people mistakenly think that corticos-
Todd Gale Debra Morris
teroid inhalers must be dangerous, just like the anabolic steroidsthat some athletes take illegally for building muscle. In fact, thesetwo drugs have quite different effects.The underlying cause of asthma is inflammation of the air-ways, which causes swelling and excess mucus production andleads to asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath andcough. Corticosteroids, commonly referred to as “controller”medications, help control inflammation and decrease swellingand excess mucus, thus relieving asthma symptoms.To be effective, it is important that your husband take hisinhaled corticosteroid daily, as directed. It will take two to threeweeks of continued use before he will feel a marked improve-ment of his symptoms. With time, his asthma attacks shoulddecrease, and he will need less and less of his other “reliever”medications. Since most of the dose of inhaled corticosteroidsgets delivered straight into the lungs, they have minimal sideeffects. Your husband can easily prevent the most common ones– local throat irritation, hoarseness and thrush, a common yeastinfection – by rinsing or gargling with water after each dose.
Q. Is it true that showering before bed is important forremoving pollen? It sounds like an old wives’ tale.
It is true. When you’re outdoors in spring and sum-mer, pollen grains may accumulate on your skin, hair andclothes. Washing before sleep will keep pollen out of your bedwhere it can contact your eyes, nose and mouth.Nightly showers are part of a wider approach to reduce,remove and avoid pollens. So along with the shower, think aboutchanging your clothes after being outdoors, staying indoorswhen pollen counts are highest (when the sun is high, the air isdry or a breeze is in your eye), machine-drying clothes instead of hanging them outside and washing your hands frequently.
Q. I’ve developed asthma in menopause. Any tips on how Ican still garden without affecting my breathing?
If your asthma is flaring up while you’re garden-ing, then your asthma control may not be optimal. As you’re newto asthma, you may need to visit your family doctor or specialistto see about adjusting your medication in pollen season.When gardening, you can reduce allergy exposure by avoidingwind-pollinated plants that produce great amounts of pollen,and by choosing female trees for your garden, as they don’t pol-linate. Still, keep in mind that no matter how carefully youchoose your plants and trees, you have no control over what’s inyour neighbours’ gardens – and pollen can really travel.Finally, avoid gardening on high pollution days. You can findthe Air Quality Health Index for many parts of the country atwww.ec.gc.ca (click on “Air”, then “Air Quality”, then “Air Quality Health Index”). Happy gardening!
Todd Gale is a registered respiratory therapist, CAE and sectionhead of the respiratory therapy program at Community Integrated Health Services in Kelowna, B.C. Debra Morris is a nurse and CAE at Halifax Allergy & Asthma Associates in Halifax. Shirin Jetha is a pharmacist and CRE in Toronto.